Negative class dynamic - HELP!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by curiouslystrong, Sep 23, 2014.

  1. curiouslystrong

    curiouslystrong Companion

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    Sep 23, 2014

    This is long - apologies in advance - but I'm at a loss about what to do with my 7th grade students. They tend to be a chatty class, which on its own is something I feel capable of dealing with, but they are also extremely immature, constantly off-task and/or not paying attention, and the vast majority of them do not take school seriously; they treat it like it's a big joke. This was also an issue with this class last year, and it is an issue that is not just present in my class, but also with their other teachers. They ARE good kids, and I truly enjoy them as individuals, but as students and as a group, something just isn't clicking the way it needs to.

    Repeated behaviors I'm seeing from them - besides talking, which is almost constant - include tattling (or sometimes just pointing at someone else), whining, claiming they don't understand directions or know what to do (even if I've thoroughly gone over an assignment with them, given a chance to ask questions, walked around to check that everyone has the relevant materials out, clearly written directions on the board and/or their assignment sheets, and repeated directions), shouting out, and extreme impatience ("I don't get this!" literally half a second after I've placed a worksheet on their desk, "What are we doing today?!" right as the bell rings, waving their hand around and shouting my name whenever they have a question). They are constantly in one another's business and trying to police other's behavior (in a disruptive way). Almost every time I open my mouth, someone starts talking; they also talk over their classmates. Some students are frequently laughing, while there are a few others who I can tell are beyond fed up with their classmates (I do try to reward these students for their behavior).

    As for consequences - at the beginning of the year, we went over and practiced procedures and created a set of class rules/expectations. As a junior high team, I and their other teachers have a "three strikes" policy - when students are not doing what they should be, their name is written in a binder, and after they get three strikes, they get an after-school detention. We also had this policy last year. As this class is my homeroom, I have talked to them several times about this behavior, as has at least one other teacher. I've tried charting their behavior. I've tried hand signals/clapping to get their attention. I've changed their seating chart. Additionally, my P is aware of the issues this class has, and both this year and last year she has had a few chats with them - none had any lasting effect.

    Overall, it seems that this class just doesn't care. They don't care when they are disciplined (though they do whine a lot about how "unfair" it is whenever they receive a consequence, even after multiple warnings). They don't care about academics. They don't care about treating others with respect. They can't keep their hands to themselves - they're constantly bumping into other people, poking them, etc. They actually seem proud that they're not setting a good example for the younger students (we're a Pre-K-8 school).

    I don't know how to fix this. Today I had to talk to them about their behavior during morning prayer; I was serious and firm with them, but a few students were (poorly) stifling laughter during the conversation. I know it wasn't directed at me personally, it's just that they just don't take the idea of respect (or discipline) seriously at all. In general I do have good rapport with the class, and their behavior has improved minimally with repeated redirection and even stricter consequences, but I'm wasting too much instructional time on classroom management - the amount of time I'm wasting this way is absolutely unsustainable. :help:
     
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  3. curiouslystrong

    curiouslystrong Companion

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    Sep 25, 2014

    Bumping this because I'm still struggling with this class. I think I've pinpointed that one of their major struggles is transitions - they're very scattered and it's hard to bring them back together when we move from one activity to another. This is especially problematic, though, because our classes are only 45 minutes long!

    I'm also struggling with the fact that they just don't care about much of anything and that many of them see school as a joke. They really are good kids, and when I've finally gotten them (temporarily) settled down they're engaged and thoughtful, but I find myself constantly lecturing them and raising my voice - it's really starting to stress me out! :tired:
     
  4. schoolteacher

    schoolteacher Habitué

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    Sep 25, 2014

    My first suggestion is to get rid of the three strikes policy and make it one strike. It sounds extreme, but if you do it with fidelity and provide immediate consequences to those who break the rules the first time, you will see behavior issues plummet right away. Tolerate nothing less than a quiet, focused classroom.

    Take a clipboard with the class list on it, and let them know that you will circle the names of students who break a rule. Announce the names as you circle them. Let them know that those students will come to after school detention.

    All of the things that you stated that they do: shouting out, whining, complaining - let them know they will come to detention if they do it even once. Once they see that you mean exactly what you say and will back it up with a consequence they do not like, they will comply. It may take several days of standing your ground, since they've already tested you before this and gotten away with a lot. Do not be afraid to keep as many children as you need to for after school detention the first few days. But that will dwindle to nothing if you stand your ground.


    To balance that, you need to provide lessons on their level, with work they can do independently.

    Your stress levels will go down considerably if you can get this class under control. I have done this with a classroom in the inner city, and I believe you can do it with any class successfully. The key is to understand that right now, the students are calling the shots. You need to be the one calling the shots, or everyone loses. Once you get them to comply with coming to the detentions, you have won the battle. Their compliance means everything, psychologically speaking.

    You will also find that they no longer view your classroom as a joke, and they will suddenly start to care quite a bit.

    Read Classroom Discipline 101. You will feel empowered when you walk into your classroom after having read that.
     
  5. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    Sep 25, 2014

    :agreed:
     
  6. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 26, 2014

    Agreed, also adding a suggestion to create a time out table or call home directly in class. Waiting until after school until a consequence hits is too long for middle schoolers. They won't even remember why they're there.
     
  7. curiouslystrong

    curiouslystrong Companion

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    Sep 26, 2014

    The three strikes policy is a school policy (and it's actually stricter than what we had last year) - I can't change it. We also have to give parents at least one day's notice before a student can be kept after school for detention. But I agree, I think they do need a more immediate consequence.

    Getting a strike is in and of itself meant to be a consequence, but even when I give out strike after strike after strike, collecting almost a laundry list of names, the students don't seem to care. They always come to their detention when they get one, bring back a signed parent form, etc., but it doesn't seem to make a real impact. They display the same behaviors with their other teachers, as well. It seems like they're either vacillating between active engagement and off-topic chatter (as they are in my class and with their math/science teacher) or they're quiet/under control but completely disengaged - anywhere from spaced out to falling asleep (as they are in reading and religion).
     
  8. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Sep 28, 2014

    Strikes are not consequences. They are posturings pretending to be consequences.

    Real consequences do any of the following:
    - separate the student from another student
    - separate the student from an adult
    - separate the student from an object or toy
    - separate the student from a fun activity or privilege.

    Your school policy is a poor one. But that's fairly common at small religious schools I've attended in my past. Just my personal experience.

    I recommend reading "Setting Limits in the Classroom". It's technically written for elementary, but when you get into reading it, you don't see a difference, and there's no difference in the classroom to applying these principles. It will tell you the difference between how to make consequences effective, or if they're just wasted motions that increase your stress and escalate the situation.
     
  9. daisycakes

    daisycakes Companion

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    Sep 28, 2014

    You can keep 3 strikes, but add a small immediate consequence to each strike. Hold them 5 minutes at recess or lunch for 2 strikes and move them to an undesirable location for one strike.
     

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